Klane and Harrington said their go-to-market strategy for Yasso has been to target the underdeveloped middle ground of the ice cream category – a better-for-you indulgent alternative that doesn’t taste like a ‘diet’ product.
Growing up near Vermont in Massachusetts, Klane and Harrington looked up to and were inspired Ben & Jerry’s founders, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, for their innovative branding and flavors, but wanted to put their own stamp on the category with a healthier alternative.
The founders and childhood best friends noticed that shopping for ice cream typically goes one of two ways, you can grab the super-premium brand with an indulgent taste profile, usually high in fat and sugar, or a ‘diet’ option with a lower calorie count but usually a less desirable taste profile and ingredient list.
“We’re big consumers of ice cream, but those weren’t products that we were going to eat every day,” Klane told FoodNavigator-USA.
“On the other side you had your diet brands, Skinny Cow, Weight Watchers, older brands that didn’t really have the right ingredients, didn’t necessarily deliver the taste profile you want. For us, we really saw it as an opportunity to
bridge the two of those?”
Klane and Harrington chose Greek yogurt as its star ingredient to deliver a creamy texture that tastes indulgent with a clean ingredient nutrition profile that consumers could conceivable eat every day (most of the company’s stick bars come in at 100 calories or less).
Since its inception, Yasso has gone through three brand refreshes tweaking its packaging and product formulas. Most recently, the company unveiled new packaging featuring a bolder, cleaner design that “communicates the flavor really well,” Harrington said.
“As we build out the brand and build out the brand positioning, there’s been opportunities to refresh certain components of the packaging then to also move away from potential competitive imposters,” he said.
According to Harrington, the products calorie count has always been highlighted on its packaging which has helped gain a consumer following that pay close attention to calories.
"For us, over the years, the calories have always gotten prime real estate. We knew that consumers were smart enough to know the inherent nutrition benefits of Greek yogurt," Harrington noted.
Winning on taste
As global market research firm Mintel has pointed taste is the No. 1 deciding factor in making a food or beverage purchase. That holds especially true for the ice cream category, where consumers are looking to treat themselves.
Yasso first launched in fruit flavors, but knew to win over consumers from other ice cream brands, it had to deliver flavors consumers expect from the category (e.g. mint chocolate chip, chocolate fudge brownie, and butter pecan) with typical mix-in inclusions such as chocolate chips or fudge swirls.
“Everyone in the country knows what these flavors are, but the magic happens when they start to get them in 100 calories and it’s loaded with inclusions and you really start to deliver on that indulgent piece,” Harrington said.
“These are flavors that people have been eating in ice cream forever but now you can just eat it in portion controlled forms,” added Klane.
The company’s most recent flavor launches include chocolate & vanilla swirl, orange cream, and butter pecan available at major retailers nationwide.
Last year, Yasso diversified and entered the sub-segment of ice cream pints with a range of eight ice cream parlor-like flavors.
Handling the competition
There have been scores of better-for-you ice cream brands flooding the market gaining a lot of consumer attention. Low-calorie ice cream brand Halo Top, for instance, had sales that reportedly topped $324.2m in 2017, according to IRI data for the 4 weeks ending 07-16-17.
“I think they came in spent a lot of money, and I think that brings eyeballs to the category, and I think that’s good for everybody. I think their entrance brought potential users walking down the frozen aisle that hadn’t been in there,” Klane said.
“It definitely made a splash and we’ve seen that cool off pretty dramatically. At the end of the day, the brand that has the best product and the brand proposition is going to win the race.”
Yasso is focused on building its already strong repeat purchase behavior and slowly convert consumers from other ice cream brands.
“Yasso is trying to be a little bit more disciplined and thoughtful in their approach and attract those consumers to the franchise,” Harrington said.
In 2018, Yasso launched the non-profit organization, The Game On! Foundation, with the mission to give back to communities through monetary donations, volunteer time, and meaningful programs that "cultivate the inner health rebel in everyone, inspiring a little sweat, competition and teamwork for people of all ages through sport."
Last year, the Yasso team in partnership with Good Sports, donated over $90,000 of brand new sports equipment to schools and community programs in Brockton, Massachusetts.